Nadia Elkharadly: The Two Man Band

Maybe I’m late to the party, but there are a LOT of two person bands out there!  Whether this is a new or old phenomenon, I’m not sure, but it fascinates me.  The traditional rock band set up usually consists, at the very least, of a singer, a guitarist, a bassist and a drummer.  Now, traditional and rock and roll are two concepts that don’t tend to go together very often.  Rock is about rebellion, about breaking barriers and most of all about challenging conventional notions.  Whether it’s dropping a bassist, dropping a guitarist, or just dropping convention, these bands are some of the two person (in most cases) that have caught my ear.

Indian Handcrafts

This entire column was actually inspired by seeing Indian Handcrafts perform for the first time.  I was at the Monster Truck show on Friday night and this twosome was the opening act.  Preceding a band like Monster Truck, with their hardcore rock sound and vintage sexy rockstar looks is no easy feat.  However, from the minute they started playing it was clear that they were more than up to the task.  Song after song, I was hooked.  The drums were hard and fast, the guitar loud and intense, and the vocals primal and gritty.  This was real rock music.  And it was only TWO GUYS!  Brandyn James Aikins mans the kit while
Daniel Brandon Allen is on guitar, and both share vocal duties.  I can’t tell you how many times I heard someone say “how are they making so much noise with just two people?”  Many minds were boggled, but I was not a stranger to the concept of two people making a shit ton of noise.  Why, you ask?  Because a few years ago I was introduced to a semi well known duo called The Black Keys.

The Black Keys

The boys from Akron, Ohio have been making waves in the music scene for over a decade now.  Though the Black Keys that most people have come to know in the past year or two generally record with a “full” band (including bass and keyboards), for a long time it was just the two of them.  Dan Auerbach sings and plays a mean guitar, while Patrick Carney plays the drums, and their music captivated me from the first time I heard it in my friend Anthony’s car.  He turned me onto their records Magic Potion and Attack and Release(produced by the legendary Danger Mouse), and those two albums quickly became the soundtrack to my life.  Digging around on my own, I soon discovered their earlier releases, The Big Comeup, Thickfreakness and the others, going as far back as 2001.  The recordings were fuzzier, giving the old style blues infused rock music a more authentic feel.  The songs were addictive, and translated amazingly well live.  I’ve seen the Black Keys perform live four times now, each show bigger than the one before it.  Seeing them play at Coachella last spring, I had a feeling they would be headlining this year, and what do you know, they are!  I’m a little sad they’ve gotten SO big now, knowing I’ll never see them in a small venue ever again, knowing that every record will get poppier and more polished.  But I’ll always have those old albums to keep me happy, and I’m honestly glad these guys are doing as well as they are.

Death From Above 1979

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this punk duo in a piece about two person bands.  Formed right here in Toronto, these guys took the unconventional route of dropping guitar from their set up.  Drums, bass and some synthesizers are all Sebastian Grainger and Jesse Keeler (respectively) have up on stage with them, and as with every other band on this list, they still manage to make a TON OF NOISE.  And it must be mentioned that they’ve managed to maintain a massive following, have played every major festival in North America, not to mention multiple tours all on the strength of just one full length album, You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine, released way back in 2004.  Pretty cool eh?  I may be partial to these guys in particular because they managed to make a whole band out of what most bands look at as “just” the rhythm section.  One listen to “Blood on our hands” or “Little Girl” and you’ll never look at the rhythm section the same way again.

The Pack A.D

Now you’ve come to know me a little bit, so you know as the sole female contributor to DBAWIS I always want to make sure the ladies are represented on our wonderful site.  And luckily enough for me, not only is there a female two person band that I can tell you all about, but that this band happens to be AWESOME.  I first came upon the Pack A.D. while listening to CBC Radio 3’s rock stream while working at my corporate day job.  The track was “Crazy” from their album We Kill Computers was playing and it immediately caught my interest.  The music was authentic and uncomplicated, but played with serious talent and skill.  I caught them twice live last year, once at Canadian Music Week, and once during North By North East, both times at the Horseshoe.  Drummer Maya Miller’s outgoing personality, complete wtih sarcastic banterwith the crowd, contrasted nicely with singer/guitarist Becky Black’s shy demeanour.  But when Becky got lost in a song, those powerhouse vocals were a force to be reckoned with.  The Pack A.D’s new album Unpersons is garnering a lot of attention, and rightly so.  I’m looking forward to seeing them live again in 2012.

Reverend Dead Eye

I know I started out this column talking about two man bands, but what’s better than a two man band?  Why, a one man band!  I happened upon the Reverend Dead Eye while reviewing another great band The Big John Bates Grindshow last spring at the Bovine.  I got there early enough to see the opening act setting up, and it had to be the oddest set up I’d ever seen.  A beer can microphone, a kick drum, a couple of tambourines, and a symbol with a zombie hand sticking out the top of it; that was it.  While I was scratching my head, wondering how this contraption even worked, the Rev himself climbed behind his kit, and proceeded to blow my mind.  Dirty delta blues with a dark gospel feel, all coming from one man behind a mechanical masterpiece of musical instruments.  And the best part?  I watched him down a shot of Jack in the middle of a guitar solo, while playing the drums and tambourine.  If you werne’t sold already, hopefully that got you.  It made me a believer.

Sometimes two, and in some cases one, is all you really need.  Got any unconventional bands or artists you want to share with me?  You know how to reach me!

Until next time,

Xo

N

Nadia’s column appears every Tuesday

You can contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

Nadia Elkharadly is a Toronto based writer with a serious addiction to music. Corporate drone by day, renegade rocker by night, writing is her creative outlet.  Nadia writes for the Examiner (.com) on live music in Toronto and Indie Music in Canada.  She has never been in a band but plays an awesome air guitar and also the tambourine.  Check in every Tuesday for musings about music, love, life and whatever else that comes to mind.

One Response to “Nadia Elkharadly: The Two Man Band”

  1. Okay, I’m sold. But can you stop? I have too many bands to listen to as it is. Is Redgy Blackout a two man band? I know they’re the core, but have they ever played as a duo? The only other real two man band is actually a one-man-one-woman band (with roadie dog and little princess) known as Hymn for Her, two legs of a rock trio, Maggi Pierce & EJ. I’m watching out for Revernd Dead Eye just to see if he can recreate that drinking feat.

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